CHICAGO — A suburban mother and son have been sentenced to federal prison for conning an illegal immigrant from El Salvador in an elaborate scheme and extorting more than $27,000 from the victim through threats of violence and deportation. They each previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion.
The sentences resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
Vincenta Edith Peralta-Saavedra, 58, of Merrillville, Indiana, was sentenced Feb. 18 to 16 months; her son, Geovanni Ozuna-Peralta, 25, also of Merrillville, Indiana, was sentenced Jan. 22 to five years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge John J. Tharp. “This is a very serious crime,” said Judge Tharp, “A crime in which you preyed on someone’s vulnerability…for your own financial gain.”
According to court documents, Ozuna-Peralta, beginning in September, 2012, preyed upon a 32-year-old illegal male immigrant from El Salvador who had posted an ad on Craig’s List seeking a same sex romantic relationship. Ozuna-Peralta used various fictitious online personas to extort money from the victim, enlisting the help of his mother to further the scheme.
Ozuna-Peralta initially responded to the ad by telling the victim he just wanted to be his friend. In a face-to-face meeting, Ozuna-Peralta posed as “Kevin Ruiz,” an officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection – one of many personas he adopted during the year-long extortion scheme.
Ozuna-Peralta later posed as an 18-year-old male student living in California who needed money to move to Chicago to begin a romantic relationship with the victim. After the victim sent hundreds of dollars for the trip, Ozuna-Peralta convinced the victim that the “student” had been arrested on the way to Chicago and needed additional bail money.
Later posing again as “Kevin Ruiz,” Ozuna-Peralta told the victim he was wanted on criminal charges in California for attempting to lure a minor and needed to pay $56,000 in legal fees to “Richard M.,” a fictitious attorney. During a face-to-face meeting Jan. 22, 2013, Ozuna-Peralta, posing as “Kevin Ruiz,” brought a gun to the victim’s apartment and demanded additional payments for legal fees. In subsequent conversations, Ozuna-Peralta threatened the victim with deportation and threatened to harm the victim’s family in El Salvador if he failed to pay his outstanding debt.
In October 2013, Ozuna-Peralta enlisted his mother, Vincenta Edith Peralta-Saavedra, to pose as a federal immigration judge in an attempt to further extort money from the victim. In a series of meetings and threatening phone calls, Peralta-Saavedra, posing as an immigration judge, told the victim she would have him arrested and deported if he did not pay $75,000 in bi-weekly installments of $2,000.
As illegal aliens from Mexico, Ozuna-Peralta and Peralta-Saavedra will be turned over to ICE and placed into deportation proceedings upon completion of their sentences.